Somerville House Inspiring Old Girls’ Project: Amanda Boxtel
We are pleased to present the first of our Inspiring Old Girls articles - a collaborative project between the OGA and Somerville House where the OGA has been able to provide an invaluable opportunity for current students to attend a workshop with Nance Haxton, as featured in last weeks story and our first in the series (https://www.somervillehouseoga.com.au/news/214960) and be paired with an Inspring Old Girl to help tell her story. Current Somerville House student Charlotte Alexander had the opportunity to attend the workshop with Nance Haxton and interview Inspiring Old Girl Amanda Boxtel (Class of 1984). Charlotte is also the daughter of Old Girl Kirsten Alexander (Lyons, 1987). Below is the article penned by Charlotte.
Amanda Boxtel was 24 and felt invincible.
She was an aerobics instructor, a dancer and an avid skier. As a former Athletics Captain at Somerville House, she was a sprinter and a long jumper who loved to run on the beach and hike in the mountains. All of that changed in a split second in 1992, when in a freak accident while downhill skiing, Amanda shattered four vertebrae. She was paralysed.
What has followed is an inspiring 27-year journey of hope, perseverance and resilience, built on an intrinsic desire to help others.
When Amanda smashed her Thoracic 10, 11, 12 and first lumbar vertebra, it was more than her spinal cord that was crushed. Her schoolyard dreams of pursuing life to the fullest were seemingly gone.
“Paralysis is a cruel injury and it’s so much more than not being able to walk,” she says.
“I used to love to stand tall in high heels and to feel a long skirt swish around my ankles as I twirled.”
Paralysis affects heart and lung function, circulation, bowel and bladder function, sexuality and involves dealing with secondary complications such as intense neuropathic pain.
Despite her huge losses, Amanda’s determination over two decades and her generosity of spirit led her to found the Bridging Bionics Foundation, which advocates for exoskeleton technology to revolutionize disability. Her foundation gives the gift of mobility through free access to physical therapy and advanced technologies, to help individuals with neurological challenges regain mobility and walk again.
“Since the accident, adaptive technology has enabled me to ski, kayak and hand cycle. In fact, I’m a much better skier now than I ever was before,” she laughs.
“Yet my deepest yearning has always been to learn how to walk again.”
Amanda’s dream came true when, with the help of technology, she was able to walk again using a bionic exoskeleton suit. She was the first person in the world to walk in a hybrid 3D printed exoskeleton for Singularity University’s European Summit in Budapest, Hungary. Now as the Executive Director for Bridging Bionics Foundation, Amanda works with a team hoping to bring this technology to all people living with paralysis.
“The wheelchair is a universal symbol for disability,” she says.
“For some people, it can become their identity. I imagine a day when a child who has limited mobility can go to a clinic, get a full-body scan and have a robot 3D printed for them from the ground up.
“Science is enabling people to dream big and help one another. This technology has already transformed my own life and it holds the promise of restoring dignity and self-reliance to a great many others.
“Each time I stand using the exoskeleton, a moment of euphoria sweeps through my body as I feel my five-foot, seven-inch frame. My greatest joy is standing at eye level and feeling a heart-to-heart hug.”
Science wasn’t always at the front of Amanda’s mind, however. As a student at Somerville House her focus was on her artistic endeavours – she won the distinguished art awards for her year. She became a primary school teacher, yet her sights were on something more – an indelible desire to help others, inexplicably borne from her own adversity. Little did she know that her life’s purpose would see her helping individuals and being of service to human kind.
“Some journeys we choose,” Amanda says, “and some journeys choose us.”
While Amanda’s long journey to “turn her wounds into wisdom” is an inspiration to many, she credits her own indomitable will, tenacity and perseverance for summonsing the fortitude to face her challenges.
“Adversity introduced me to myself—like the fury of wind whipping a mountainside, sculpting its snowy crevices into artistic creations; adversity tore off my layers of self-protection and exposed my true essence, which was real, nonjudgmental, free of inhibitions, pure, and open to possibility,” she says.
Even though Amanda’s spinal cord injury took away her ability to walk, it didn’t take away her ability to dream and then turn her dreams into her reality one baby step at a time.
Her proudest achievement to date was recently being honoured as one of CNN Heroes Top 10 finalists for 2018. CNN Heroes honours everyday people changing the world.
Looking to the future Amanda hopes to continue to serve humankind the best way she knows how.
“It is our human right to have access to technologies and healing therapies to improve quality of life,” she says.
“I envision making advanced technologies accessible and affordable for every person with a neurological condition.
“To students at Somerville House, I would say, the human life force is phenomenal, mysterious, and resilient. I know this from my own life happenings and those of others.
“Our indomitable will and spirit have no limitation. There is every reason not to give up but live in a vast ocean of hope.
“Each of us has the power to expose the beauty of our soul, to rise above adversity, to overcome, to dream, and to live our most passionate life. All we have to do is to recognize and seize each pivotal moment we encounter.
“I stand for wisdom, integrity, honesty, compassion, forgiveness and I stand for love. May you lead the life you were created to live. Seek to be a vessel of kindness and of love.”
Please click on the attachment for a full list of the achievements for Amanda Boxtel.
The first in our series of articles is available to explore here (https://www.somervillehouseoga.com.au/news/214960)